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Posts published in January 2008


Bill Fromhold

Bill Fromhold

Another Washington legislator out, but a Democrat this time. What might it mean in this year's contest? A first look at this suggests it may not mean a great deal of change.

He is Bill Fromhold, from Vancouver: And Clark County is seriously contestable territory. Fromhold (should note here that he isn't leaving under a scandal cloud, and hasn't been an especially controversial elected official) will serve out his term but become executive director of a local nonprofit. Once considered a prospect for state superintendent of public instruction, he now seems to be headed to work in another education area (the Mentoring Advanced Placement Program).

District 49

District 49

District 49 is the most Democratic part of Clark County - its three legislators all are Democrats - and a look at the map dispels any mystery as to why: It is the urban, Vancouver city-centric, district, running west of I-205 and north of the Columbia but stopping to the north around Hazel Dell - generally, the more established and settled city area. It was nevertheless more accustomed, a decade ago, to voting for more Republicans than it has recently.

Fromhold has had routinely strong and slightly growing re-elect numbers: 61.2% in 2002, 62.3% in 2004 and 64.7% in 2006. The other House member here, Democrat Jim Moeller, scored over 60% in his last two elections. The senator, Craig Pridemore, is up for re-election this year, and won with just 50.7% in 2004. But, in that election he was the challenger (albeit that he was then a county commissioner) against Republican incumbent Don Carlson, a generally popular local figure who'd been elected to the legislature routinely since 1992. Pridemore looks generally solid for re-election at this point. This district seems to have moved leftward in the last two to three years.

Generally, an open seat is an improved opportunity for an opposition party. This one could be of just limited advantage.

Iowa and Idaho

Briefly alluded to in the last post, but this really merits a second take: The possibility that the Iowa results could actually impact on Idaho politics. Most particularly, that Idaho Democrats may have particularized cause for smiling.

Two components to this.

First, on their own side of the fence, more than a few Idaho Democrats had to be concerned - terrified might be a stretch but not by a lot - at the prospect of Hillary Clinton atop their ticket this fall. The whole idea of Clinton redux took them into a nightmarish place few would even want to contemplate; so the rapid growth of a Barack Obama base in Idaho in recent months has been no shock. Those Idaho Obama corps has become large and active and energetic, and probably will deliver the state to their man at next month's caucuses. And there's basis for thinking that Obama could be the least-disliked Democratic presidential candidate in Idaho in decades. You might actually see the spectacle of Idaho Democrats running for office and mentioning their presidential candidate. A startling concept. (Disclaimer, of course: No one yet knows who will be the Democratic presidential candidate, or Republican either. Of course.)

Second, across the fence, the odds of an especially popular Republican nominee just dropped a bit. Idaho Republicans have locked in behind former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney - practically every notable Idaho Republican who has endorsed has signed up with him. And the religious linkage, the big overlap between Idaho's Republican and Mormon community on one hand and Romney's very public Mormon affiliation on the other, means that many Idahoans are unusually invested in how well Romney does. If the Iowa results turn out to be predictive of Republicans elsewhere around the country, that may mean, "not well" - and how will all those Idaho Mormon Republicans take that?

Of course, things can run in many different directions in the months ahead; if the Iowa results conclusively mean anything, it's that the races in both parties are far from over. But Iowa certainly does open some lines of thought.

Out of Iowa

One of the biggest political nights of the year, prospectively a major turning point of the presidential political cycle, and the Northwest is . . . watching. But watching with interest. You doubtless know from elsewhere that on the Democratic side, Barack Obama won decisively and John Edwards narrowly edged Hillary Clinton for second; and on the Republican, Mike Huckabee won very decisively over second-place Mitt Romney, with Fred Thompson and John McCain trailing distantly.

bullet A shrewd quick comment from one of the quickest political wits in the area, Oregon Democratic Senate candidate Steve Novick: "The voters of Iowa, both Democrats and Republicans, have sent the same message I have been hearing from Oregon voters: people want change and they want authenticity. It's not about money. It's not about endorsements. It's not about so-called 'inevitability.' People aren't going to take their instructions from Washington insiders. They're tired of politics as usual. In the last few weeks the three leading Democrats have been seen as expressing three different themes. Obama's about hope. Edwards is about anger. Clinton's about hard work, or 'perspiration' - but some see her as the candidate of calculation. What we're going to prove in this campaign is that be hopeful without being naïve. You can be angry without being bitter. And if you work hard enough, you can win by saying what you believe."

bullet The candidates with the heaviest rosters of Northwest "names" backing them (see our list) were Democrat Clinton (in Oregon and Washington, not in Idaho) and Republican Romney (in Idaho and Oregon, not Washington). Rough night for all those guys - their candidates, while not wiped out, are in an abruptly tougher spot than they were just a short time ago. (That includes Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, the only one of the Northwest governors to endorse at this stage, and among the in-Iowa campaigners the Clinton campaign brought in.) But also: What will all those Idaho Republicans think about this result, unless Romney finds a way to recover? To what extent was the Iowa GOP vote religion-based, and to what extent will Idaho Republicans think it was?

bullet On the other hand, while Huckabee seems to have little visible organization in the region, Obama has a strong local-based organization, strikingly so in Idaho, very substantial in Oregon and Washington.

The Portland-New Hampshire connection?

Get this, on the subject of apparent anti-Mormon push polling in New Hampshire . . . mysterious push polling, in that no one seems to know who's behind it, though the subject obviously is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the only presidential candidate who happens to be Mormon. News today includes word that the New Hampshire state attorney general is looking into the situation.

The Northwest connection? From the Talking Points Memo earlier today: "So we've got a little more to chew on on that old favorite, the mystery anti-Mormon push polls and who did them. The new info is that the next firm up the food chain is called Moore-Information, based out of Portland, Oregon. They're fighting the New Hampshire AG's subpoenas. And they turn out to have at least some ties back to Romney. Back in 2006, when Romney was head of the Republican Governors Association, the great majority of FEC-reported disbursements to Moore came from contracts from the RGA. Remember, other company already in the news, the one Moore-Information hired, Western Wats also had ties to Romney."

More on this when we see it.

UPDATE A volume of excellent background and perspective on this from Coyote at NW Republican.

WA Gov: National view

What looks like a core national view on the Washington governor's race, this from Lou Jacobson at (via e-mail, so no link). He lists the race among three deemed "vulnerable," explaining thus:

"The big development in Washington state is that Republican Dino Rossi, after a long period of indecision, is now officially challenging Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), who beat him after two recounts by 133 votes in 2004. Rossi has come out of the gate quickly, raising well over $1 million in the weeks following his announcement. That’s still several million short of Gregoire’s cash account, but Rossi will be able to add to his haul early in 2008, whereas Gregoire will be barred from fundraising when the legislature is in session. Rossi’s message has been to blast cumbersome state government — using Gregoire, a career government official, as exhibit A — and 23 consecutive years of Democratic governors."

For the moment, we'd add only that money is unlikely to be the decisive factor here: Both candidates are likely to have enough to put on a solid campaign.

Ladenburg in?

John Ladenburg

John Ladenburg

This is sounding relatively definitive: Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg seems to be positioning himself for a run for attorney general.

The Tacoma News Tribune's political blog is reporting that Ladenburg has been meeting with state Democrats, and will decide within a month if he will enter the race. A county spokesman said "he’s seriously considering running for attorney general."

Pierce County is an excellent launching pad for state office - it's a large and pivotal county. And there appear to be no other publicly interested Democrats for the job. Against that, Republican AG Rob McKenna is not likely to be an easy target; he seems increasingly dig in where he is, and his campaign has been underway for a couple of months or so.

Seasonal on the coast

And a Happy New Year to all, and a quick report from the Oregon Coast, battered a month ago by 150 miles winds, and the subject of wire reports that tourist traffic has been down in the wake of those storms.

Basic impression: Some, but not much. We were on the coast a year ago, and we've spent the last few days there (the Lincoln City to Yachats area), and our take is that traffic is down somewhat - not quite so many sold-out rooms for
New Year's, not quite so packed in the casinos, not so much bumper to bumper on 101 - but only to a degree. Mainly, the visiting was just a little easier and more comfortable, but the businesses were doing business.

And the whale watching was spectacular. A year ago, after persistent watching, we saw none. This year, quite a few. On New Year's Eve, as of about 1 p.m., the whale watching station at Depoe Day reported sighting 21 whales so far that day (compared to just four the day before).

And a new year begins. Give it another three days, politics kicks with a bang. But that'll be another post.